- Biotech "Yes Men" on Obama's team threaten
to expand the use of dangerous genetically modified (GM) foods in our diets.
Instead of giving us change and hope, they may prolong the hypnotic "group
think" that has been institutionalized over three previous administrations--where
critical analysis was abandoned in favor of irrational devotion to this
risky new technology.
- Clinton's agriculture secretary Dan Glickman saw it first
- "It was almost immoral to say that [biotechnology]
wasn't good, because it was going to solve the problems of the human race
and feed the hungry and clothe the naked. . . . If you're against it, you're
Luddites, you're stupid. That, frankly, was the side our government was
on. . . . You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to
present an open-minded view"
- When Glickman dared to question the lax regulations on
GM food, he said he "got slapped around a little bit by not only the
industry, but also some of the people even in the administration."
- By shutting open-minds and slapping dissent, deceptive
myths about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) persist.
- · The industry boasts that GMOs reduce herbicide
use; USDA data show that the opposite is true.
- · We hear that GMOs increase yield and farmer
profit; but USDA and independent studies show an average reduction in yield
and no improved bottom line for farmers.
- · George H. W. Bush fast-tracked GMOs to increase
US exports; now the government spends an additional $3-$5 billion per year
to prop up prices of the GM crops no one wants.
- · Advocates continue to repeat that GMOs are needed
to feed the world; now the prestigious International Assessment of Agricultural
Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development has joined a long list
of experts who flatly reject GMOs as the answer to hunger.
- Food Safety Lies
- Of all the myths about GMOs, the most dangerous is that
they are safe. This formed the hollow basis of the FDA's 1992 GMO policy,
- "The agency is not aware of any information showing
that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any
meaningful or uniform way."
- The sentence is complete fiction. At the time it was
written, there was overwhelming consensus among the FDA's own scientists
that GM foods were substantially different, and could create unpredictable,
unsafe, and hard-to-detect allergens, toxins, diseases, and nutritional
problems. They had urged the political appointees in charge to require
long-term safety studies, including human studies, to protect the public.
- Their concerns stayed hidden until 1999, when 44,000
pages of internal FDA memos and reports were made public due to a lawsuit.
According to public interest attorney Stephen Druker, the documents showed
how their warnings and "references to the unintended negative effects"
of genetic engineering "were progressively deleted from drafts of
the policy statement," in spite of scientists' protests.
- "What has happened to the scientific elements of
this document?" wrote FDA microbiologist Louis Pribyl, after reviewing
the latest rewrite of the policy. "It will look like and probably
be just a political document. . . . It reads very pro-industry, especially
in the area of unintended effects."
- Who flooded the market with dangerous GMOs
- Thanks to the FDA's "promote biotech" policy,
perilously few safety studies and investigations have been conducted on
GMOs. Those that have, including two government studies from Austria and
Italy published just last month, demonstrate that the concerns by FDA scientists
should have been heeded. GMOs have been linked to toxic and allergic reactions
in humans, sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every
organ studied in lab animals. GMOs are unsafe.
- At the highest level, the responsibility for this disregard
of science and consumer safety lies with the first Bush White House, which
had ordered the FDA to promote the biotechnology industry and get GM foods
on the market quickly. To accomplish this White House directive, the FDA
created a position for Michael Taylor. As the FDA's new Deputy Commissioner
of Policy, he oversaw the creation of GMO policy.
- Taylor was formerly the outside attorney for the biotech
giant Monsanto, and later became their vice president. He had also been
the counsel for the International Food Biotechnology Council (IFBC), for
whom he drafted a model of government policy designed to rush GMOs onto
the market with no significant regulations. The final FDA policy that he
oversaw, which did not require any safety tests or labeling, closely resembled
the model he had drafted for the IFBC.
- Michael Taylor is on the Obama transition team.
- Genetically engineered bovine growth hormone and unhealthy
- Taylor was also in charge when the FDA approved Monsanto's
genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST). Dairy products
from treated cows contain more pus, more antibiotics, more growth hormone,
and more IGF-1--a powerful hormone linked to cancer and increased incidence
of fraternal twins (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/www.YourMilkonDrugs.com
- www.YourMilkonDrugs.com.) The growth hormone is banned
in most industrialized nations, including Canada, the EU, Japan, Australia,
and New Zealand. But under Michael Taylor, it was approved in the US, without
- As more and more consumers here learn about the health
risks of the drug, they shift their purchases to brands that voluntarily
label their products as not using rbGH. Consumer rejection of rbGH hit
a tipping point a couple of years ago, and since then it has been kicked
out of milk from Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Kroger, Subway, and at least 40 of
the top 100 dairies. In 2007, Monsanto desperately tried to reverse the
trend by asking the FDA and FTC to make it illegal for dairies to label
their products as free from rbGH. Both agencies flatly refused the company's
- But Monsanto turned to an ally, Dennis Wolff, the Pennsylvania
Secretary of Agriculture. Wolff used his position to single-handedly declare
rbGH-free labels illegal in his state. Such a policy would make it impossible
for national dairy brands to declare their products rbGH-free, since they
couldn't change packaging just for Pennsylvania. Wolff's audacious move
so infuriated citizens around the nation, the outpouring caused the governor
to step in and stop the prohibition before it took effect.
- Dennis Wolff, according to unbossed.com, is being considered
for Obama's USDA Secretary.
- Although Pennsylvania did not ultimately ban rbGH-free
labels, they did decide to require companies who use the labels to also
include a disclaimer sentence on the package, stating that the according
to the FDA there is no difference between milk from cows treated with rbGH
and those not treated. In reality, this sentence contradicts the FDA's
own scientists. (Is this sounding all too familiar?) Even according to
Monsanto's own studies, milk from treated cows has more pus, antibiotics,
bovine growth hormone, and IGF-1. Blatantly ignoring the data, a top FDA
bureaucrat wrote a "white paper" urging companies that labeled
products as rbGH-free to also use that disclaimer on their packaging. The
bureaucrat was Michael Taylor.
- Betting on biotech is "Bad-idea virus"
- For several years, politicians around the US were offering
money and tax-breaks to bring biotech companies into their city or state.
But according to Joseph Cortright, an Oregon economist who co-wrote a 2004
report on this trend, "This notion that you lure biotech to your community
to save its economy is laughable. This is a bad-idea virus that has swept
through governors, mayors and economic development officials."
- One politician who caught a bad case of the bad-idea
virus was Tom Vilsack, Iowa's governor from 1998-2006. He was co-creator
and chair of the Governors' Biotechnology Partnership in 2000 and in 2001
the Biotech Industry Organization named him BIO Governor of the Year.
- Tom Vilsack was considered a front runner for Obama's
USDA secretary. Perhaps the outcry prompted by Vilsack's biotech connections
was the reason for his name being withdrawn.
- Change, Truth, Hope
- I don't know Barack Obama's position on GMOs. According
to a November 23rd Des Moines Register article, "Obama, like Bush,
may be Ag biotech ally", there are clues that he has not been able
to see past the biotech lobbyist's full court spin.
- - His top scientific advisers during the campaign included
Sharon Long, a former board member of the biotech giant Monsanto Co., and
Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate who co-chaired a key study of genetically
engineered crops by the National Academy of Sciences back in 2000. - [Obama]
said biotech crops "have provided enormous benence "that we can
continue to modify plants safely."
- On the other hand, Obama may have a sense how pathetic
US GMO regulations are, since he indicated that he wants "stringent
tests for environmental and health effects" and "stronger regulatory
oversight guided by the best available scientific advice."
- There is, however, one unambiguous and clear promise
that separates Obama from his Bush and Clinton predecessors.
- President Obama will require mandatory labeling of GMOs.
- Favored by 9 out of 10 Americans, labeling is long overdue
and is certainly cause for celebration.
- (I am told that now Michael Taylor also favors both mandatory
labeling and testing of GMOs. Good going Michael; but your timing is a
- sign a petition asking President Obama to make his GMO
labeling plan comprehensive and meaningful.